Category Archives: Uncategorized

She Has My Hands!

My daughter gave birth to my first grandbaby on Wednesday very early in the AM, the day before Thanksgiving. I saw the whole thing happen, and I feel honored to have been a part of the “team” who facilitated the arrival of this beautiful, precious miracle. We have much to be thankful for, and it is a birth story our family will be regaling in for years to come.

The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around my granddaughter ’s tiny neck, (not tightly), but the heart rate monitor told us she was fine. The doctor quickly unfurled her as she slipped forth into the actual world and placed the infant in my daughter’s arms. The baby grunted first, then cried out.

No sound is sweeter! No sound is more perfect.

When the professionals took the baby to the examining table and warming lamp for measurements and Apgar testing I followed with my camera and snapped some amazing photos. My granddaughter fussed a little. (Who wouldn’t when you have a bunch of strange people looking at your naked, vulnerable presence on a flat, white surface with big lights and instruments) and my inner adoptee brain said, “ Birth is traumatic regardless, so let’s reduce the trauma somehow.”

I reached for her hand and began to talk.

Actually, I babbled with sleepless and shameless delight, but who cares?  I talked to my grandbaby girl and told her she was OK; that she was beautiful and loved by everybody. She was fine. Her mommy and daddy were fine. Everything in her life was fine. I repeated those words over and over. She looked over at me and fixed on my voice and whatever her newborn eyes could see and relaxed instantly. She knew me! She must have!

I took her little hand in mine, and her fingers curled tightly around my index finger. Her digits were dainty, long and slender but very strong.46508750_10161009548305459_7629862672376266752_n.jpgIMG_4028.jpeg

She had my hands!

Oh my God! She has my hands!

She has my mani!  (I said it in a funny way, but it was true.)

I saw something of ME in my newborn granddaughter.

I am an adoptee who’s been fortunate enough to have birthed and raised my biological daughters, and now get to see my grandchild…another biological relative….and this kid has my nails, knuckles, and fingers! That’s not happened before.

All my sisters and daughters have shorter fingers and small hands. Mine look like Kobe Bryant’s by comparison. My grandbaby has my hands!

Mine!

Wow!

I know her body will change some as she grows and develops muscle tone and more bone density, but I saw a piece of ME in her I’d never seen before!

I’ve inserted another missing puzzle piece. (I’ve been in reunion for over 30 years, and I had no idea I still had missing parts.)IMG_4040.jpeg

I’m swooning.

I’m relishing.

I’m delighting.

I’m connecting.

I’m thanking G-d, The Force, my Ancestors,  the Universe, Spirit, etc.

I’m in awe and in love.

I’m a grandma!

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Something I’m looking forward to:

Megan n Max Baby announcement 2018.jpg#Grandbaby

Missing Pieces

I have an original birth certificate and a fabricated (aka “amended”) birth certificate. This happens a lot with adopted people. You might think it’s kinda cool and noteworthy to have two birth documents but it’s actually complicated. After 57 years, I’ve learned to deal with it, but It’s taken some soul-searching.

When I was very small and my (adoptive) parents explained that I was adopted they showed me my birth certificate. The only one they had was the changed one, but it was theirs, and it was mine. It bonded us as a family. It was the piece of identity on paper that I used for obtaining a social security number, a driver’s license, a passport, and a job. That paper was me. Only it wasn’t all me. It was legal, and it was real, but it also made part of me unreal.

My amended birth document contains my adoptive parents’ names as if they’d been the ones who conceived and birthed me. It lists my hospital of birth and my birth date. However, it does not list my time of birth nor my birth length/weight. Everyone I know has these tidbits of information. I often felt disturbed that my paperwork was lacking, (especially when people would talk about how big someone’s baby was and at what time they entered this world). You wouldn’t think those little-bitty details would matter that much, but they did to me. Honestly, until my mid-20s I hated, (yes literally), hated my birth certificate because it wasn’t real enough and it was not inclusive. Instead, I had a societally expected text to follow, and it was bullcrap because I did not have what other “normal” (in my young mind) people had.

My so-called script was to acknowledge that I was an adopted “child” and I was “chosen” by my adoptive parents, so that made me “ special” and “grateful”. (To be fair here, I must note that my culture in a general sense, gave me this expectation. My adoptive parents did not, except maybe for the word “special”, but they felt a lot of people and things were special.)

News flash: “Normal” people don’t use scripts; not for their birth story.

It took years for me to find the words to explain why this parlance was no good. For one thing, a child grows up. I’m not a child now, nor do I want to be. Adopted people do not want to be regarded as a perpetual child, but in many states, this is how adoption law works. We can smoke, drink, buy lottery tickets and serve in the military, but many of us cannot access our first birth certificate that has detailed information about our true start in life.

I’ve always associated the word, “chosen” with picking out a puppy from a litter or the old TV commercial slogan, “Choosy mothers choose Jif.” Being chosen implies that the adoptee has had no control. This verbiage potentially sets someone up to be hesitant and less inclined to seek leadership. Being chosen also implies hoping that other people out there deem you worthy enough to be selected. I refuse to believe that a child or baby in an orphanage who happened to never be adopted is in any way less worthy.

“Grateful”. Again this is a highly charged word. I’m grateful for a lot of things, but should I be more grateful than anyone else? How do you measure gratefulness anyway?

I found out from watching a TV talk show that adopted people in Ohio could actually acquire their original birth certificate, (referred to as an OBC in Adoption-land), so I sent Vital Statistics a twenty dollar check, and six weeks later the paper-pushers in Columbus sent me a big, fat envelope with copies of my real identity. My OBC even had listed the first, middle and last names of my birth parents, my pre-adoption name and a notation showing that I was not a first birth for my biological mother. I had a sibling out there!

The day I sat at my kitchen table and finally absorbed the realities reflected on these papers I changed from a functional but incomplete person to someone who felt whole and authentic. I no longer had to rely on a fabricated narrative about when, where and how I was born. My shame for not being grateful enough lifted from my soul, replaced by empowerment.

As I researched and uncovered more truths about my birth family for the rest of that year, I learned all I needed to know. I had to accept that due to my birth mother’s early-in-life death, I would never know all tidbits, but I had more than ever before. I had enough. I became the real me.

These days I happily share my birth story and I no longer hate it or find my natal facts lacking except in one way.
After all that time wishing and searching, my birth time and size were still omitted. Some things will always remain a mystery…

Book Review: An Adoptee Lexicon by Karen Pickell

Ohio adoptee and author, Karen Pickell’s new book is out. An Adoptee Lexicon reads fast, but don’t do it. The point is to savor these carefully chosen terms and phrases and think about their meanings. The book is styled as a series of vignettes and reflections about select words and Pickell’s personal associations when she encounters them. The focus is on how others comprehend these words and how she understands them from an adoptee perspective.

In everyday communication, all of us use a variety of vocabulary when projecting messages via speech, listening and writing skills. Using words like “mirror”, “first” or “normal” have connotations we all can generally relate to and are not wrong, but for an adopted person such terms take on more layers.

With each entry, Karen Pickell shares with the reader insights into her adoptee story and what being adopted has meant to her during different life stages. She shares researched facts about many sayings and words as they pertain to the “institution” of adoption.

My favorite segment of this book is the one entitled, “Mirror” in which Karen so eloquently and honestly describes how she once perceived herself and how she now sees herself after having her own children. Often, the only chance an adopted person has to connect with blood-related kin is if they have the opportunity to have and raise their own biological child(ren).

I hope every adoptee gets the chance to read and ponder over An Adoptee Lexicon. It’s unique in style, easy to follow and gets right to the point: What we say matters. How we think matters. Adopted people’s needs as adoptees matter.

An Adoptee Lexicon is available at Amazon.com in print and Kindle form.

For Halloween and the Eve of National Adoption Awareness Month: Ghosted

Ghosted

Billie is a ghost.

She saw me once, but I can’t remember seeing her.

Doctors sent me to the nursery, and then I went to foster care.

Billie went to the OR for surgery and then home to recover.

She appears in many photos, so I know she was real.

People talk about her, but I’ve never heard her voice.

She worked in restaurants and bakeries most of her life.

She never fed me.

She enjoyed country tunes, the old style.

I never heard her sing.

She danced and swayed to the music.

She never rocked me.

She argued fiercely with her boyfriend.

She and I never had a mother-daughter fight.

She wanted to find me and had carbon copies of papers.

I had a new name and a changed birth certificate.

She moved away to California, to start a new life.

I moved to Florida to start college.

Her heart valves gave out, and she died feeling broken.

I fell in love and returned to Ohio. My heart grew when my babies were born.

I’ve never felt Billie’s touch, but I have felt her presence in the room and in my daughters’ eyes.

Billie is a ghost.

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig: Book Review

Ginny Moon is a premiere novel by author and adoptive parent Benjamin Ludwig.  It is the fictional story of an adolescent girl who happens to be both adopted and autistic. I was drawn to this book immediately because I teach autistic students, and I am an adoptee. I enjoyed and appreciated the diary-like styling of this complex family story, as told from the point of view of Ginny, the young, endearing, learning-challenged adoptee who wants desperately to find her baby sister and know that the younger sister is alive and cared for.

Ginny is also an adoptee-lite in the sense that she knows who her biological mother, father, sister, and aunt are, but lacks the capacity to comprehend the precarious and destructive life her first mother has historically lead. Ginny’s prospective adoptive parents are portrayed as very caring regarding Ginny’s needs but also controlling and protective of their other biological infant daughter, (with good reason to a point). At one point in the story, I found myself disliking the adoptive mother mostly because she does not present as a happy person. She lacks trust and seems unwilling to try with Ginny once the new baby comes into their lives.

Ginny struggles with her need to feel worthy and needed by someone as well as her need to understand fully what truly lead to her relinquishment or separation from her mother of birth in spite of the mental challenges which her disability presents. Her “fog” is unique in that due to her mental challenges, she is not cognizant of the lapse in time (5 plus years) between when she was removed from her first home of squalor, neglect, and danger and placed in what she describes as “the Blue House with her Forever Mom and Dad”.

Autistic people seek to understand their environment in ways beyond what typical people strive for. They need to work through sensory/ information overload, multiple messages at one time, and the uniqueness and quirkiness of spoken language in addition to all the whys and why nots every adopted/relinquished person experiences regardless.

The novel, Ginny Moon, in no way promotes or supports one side of the adoption constellation or community over another. Author, Benjamin Ludwig writes from personal experience about parenting a special needs adoptee and all the joys and struggles that brings. Ludwig also conveys well the importance of having effective social workers/therapists who seek communication breakthroughs and understanding with their young clients.

Readers who enjoyed the book/movie WONDER might like this story because it conveys family unity and resilience amidst the challenges of raising a child with social and mental challenges. The characters are real, imperfect yet well-intentioned individuals. Ludwig captures the time of tween to early teen years when all kids, regardless of intellectual ability go through a phase when they increase their understanding and awareness of the greater world and begin to question how “the systems of society” work.

Another well-regarded novel I would liken Ginny Moon to is Mark Hadden’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in which another young autistic teen feels compelled to unravel a mystery this time about a murdered neighborhood canine. The main character is accused of something he did not do and he must somehow break through an intense communication barrier in order to find out the truth about his life.

Ginny Moon is attention-grabbing because Ginny’s “voice” (as the narrator) is fascinating, sincere and down to earth. The chapters are short yet this book is rich in detail in all the right places. Educators at many levels will also find this book appealing and insightful. Author, Benjamin Ludwig effectively shows the fine balance between the needs and interests of adoptees, their biological mothers and fathers, adoptive parents and even social workers.

This book is traditionally published and available in most standard retail bookstores and online.

 

Reviews of Jean Strauss’s Two Documentary Films:

Review of the documentary films, Adopted: for the life of me & A Simple Piece of Paper

These are films written, produced, directed and narrated by adoptee advocate, author, and filmmaker, Jean Strauss. The focus is primarily on adult adoptees from what is often called “The Baby-Scoop Era”. (think Baby-Boomer generation) These films bring to light the impact and potential for damage and loss that secrets about the adoption process cause, especially if it is a closed adoption, which was the norm in the 1940s-70s.

Adopted: for the life of me opens with an image of a dark traffic tunnel, which artfully symbolizes the emergence of life outside the womb and also the emotional “journey” many adopted people will face if they choose to explore their adoption back story and all the results of their findings. Adopted: for the life of me, offers a glimpse into the lives of adoptees Dave, Pam, Robert and Joe and how the unfairness and mysteriousness of not knowing about their origins have affected their careers, parenting, and other relationships.

Some thought-provoking points in this documentary:

*When Robert explains how seeing his children’s baby footprints done by the hospital at birth made him feel regarding is own unanswered questions.

*The quote:  “If it seems cruel to tell someone they have no right to know about their past, it’s downright criminal to tell them they have no right to their own medical background.”

*The fact is made that a purebred dog has more family history than most adopted human beings.

*The dichotomy between the states of Kansas’s and Missouri’s adoption records laws and how State Line Road splits citizens.

*Another quote: “The secrecy of closed adoption can lead to more secrets and unexposed desires and needs.”

*A final quote: “Living things need light to survive.”

This video closes as the vehicle exits the tunnel and drives forward into the light of day but also toward the light of knowledge.

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Strauss has also written, filmed and produced a documentary called A Simple Piece of Paper. It is specifically about how the state of Illinois opened their adoptee birth records in 2011 and how that has changed the lives of many adopted people and their biological parents and siblings. It’s styled as a collection of personal accounts of adoptees’ experiences in applying for their paperwork and what it feels like to have direct knowledge of one’s heritage, health history and whereabouts of biological relatives for the very first time.

A Simple Piece of Paper demonstrates that an adopted adult obtaining their original birth information will not cause them to “dump” their adoptive family members. In fact, it could be a chance to build relationships and actually grow a family.

It is also compelling to listen to adoptee Jennifer’s testament as a law enforcement employee, to state how much the truth matters to human lives in her line of work, so why shouldn’t the truth of one’s origins be equally as vital for an adoptee? Having the right to your information removes feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness.

Adoptee Gay Ellen’s struggle to obtain accurate medical background information so that insurance will not deny her coverage for expensive but necessary tests is another valid reason why adopted adults wish to search. Her search could have a potential impact on her own daughter and granddaughter. The point is, adopted adults who have the chance to acquire health history are not being self-indulgent but instead realize it is critical for their future family members, including spouses who wish to be supportive.

Both documentaries, Adopted: for the life of me and A Simple Piece of Paper are highly engaging to watch, professional and humanistic. This is reality at its finest, making many worthy and well-researched points about the longest lasting ramifications and outcomes from closed adoption: How it impacts one’s mental and physical wellness and the ability to progress throughout life as a whole and validated human being.

Both documentaries can be found on Vimeo.com

Review of the film, ADOPTED

Film producer and director, Barb Lee, in 2008, created a documentary film about the life paths of two transracial adoption families simply called, ADOPTED. This film is thought-provoking and realistic as it tracks the touch points of two adoptive family situations: one, a Korean-born adult adoptee who is dealing with the terminal illness of her adoptive mother and the other is a PAC, (prospective Adoptive Couple), who anxiously await the arrival of their soon-to-be daughter who was born in China. Although the adoptees in this film are from countries outside the US, many of the emotions and thoughts expressed by the family members are universal in all adoption cases, past and present, domestic or abroad.

The PAC, (John and Jacqui), has all the best intentions as they prepare for the future arrival of their baby daughter in China. They are hopeful and thoughtful. The PAM (Prospective Adoptive Mother, Jacqui), shares her compassion for the unknown birth mother of the baby she is soon to adopt and discusses the grief that birth mother might be feeling as the birthdate and adoption date of the baby approaches. Their family and friends throw a shower for the PAC and they reflect on how their future adopted baby might feel bewilderment and grief due to all the life changes imposed at such a young age and how they feel an urgency to validate those issues in order to move forward in a healthy parent-child relationship.

Jennifer, the Korean adult adoptee, struggles to explain to her now disabled adoptive mother why she feels an understanding of and a sense of connectedness to the biological mother she has never met. Jennifer thinks her adoptive parents might be in denial of her actual heritage as she compensates to make up for her physical and cultural differences in order to fit in and meet her adoptive parents’ expectations.

Her very loving and well-intentioned adoptive mother honestly admits, “…I want you all to myself.” Jennifer attempts to explain the “invisible privilege” that birth families have, which is acknowledging how family members resemble one another. This is sometimes called “mirroring” and is when an adopted person gets the chance to finally see themselves via the actions and appearances of fellow biological relatives. Jennifer shares a powerful suggestion with her adoptive mother, “You’ll actually get more of me if you imagine that I was connected to someone else at one time…” Jennifer wants her adoptive mother to share in the curiosity about her first past. She sees this as a way to feel validated and accepted as an independent, free-thinking adult adoptee who holds no ill-will or anger toward anyone.

This is a great documentary for demonstrating contemporary viewpoints of trans-racial/national adoption but it also shares many feelings and issues experienced by all adopted people, regardless of heritage. Jennifer, the adult adoptee who is caring for her adoptive mother, is not bitter about her situation but struggles to seek truth and respect for her beliefs. The PAC, John and Jacqui, does not present as greedy, controlling nor judgmental of the birth mother in this film although they are shown as motivated and eager to become parents. The agency from which John and Jacqui’s new daughter came appears organized, appropriate and having the child’s best interests at heart. (Admittedly, not all placement agencies have operated (and do operate) this way, but in this case, the film presents this place and its caregivers as being on the up and up.

Adopted is engaging and presents with empathy, respect, and compassion for all the participants involved. It does not favor one side of the adoption constellation over another. It’s a rare find to come across any film or piece of writing that can evoke emotions yet display an unbiased perspective.

This film is available on Amazon Prime and YouTube.

Review of Nancy Newton Verrier’s The Primal Wound

The Primal Wound knocks it out of the so-called park with directness, superb research, and validation for what an adopted person might feel regarding being adopted. This book is full of personal accounts from actual adopted people and well-respected theorists and therapists who have expertise in human development. Many readers have considered The Primal Wound to be an adoptee “Bible” because there are so many poignant observations and quotes regarding the adopted person’s experience.

It was originally published in 1993, with the cover design done in 1991, according to my 2016 edition. Verrier dedicated her book to her daughter, (an adoptee), who came into their lives “on a path of sacrifice and pain yet whose love and courage have brought us understanding and joy.” Verrier was motivated to write this book due to her experience as an adoptive mother and as part of her master’s thesis in clinical psychology.

Verrier defines what The Primal Wound is for adopted people and how it plays a part in the lives of adoptive parents and adoptees alike. It cannot be covered up. It cannot be reversed once separation from the biological mother and adoption have happened. It can only be recognized as a real thing which carries with it issues such as guilt, (mis)trust, shame, identity, loyalty, rejection and control/power. The Primal Wound book never places blame or judgment on any party involved in the adoption system. This book simply points out many pieces of factual information and how even routine life events which all individuals may experience, have unique and lasting effects for adopted individuals.

Although Verrier bases her observations and writings on interviews with adoptees, personal experiences as a therapist and an adoptive parent, this book is not memoir nor creative non-fiction. It is for information seekers and especially for adopted people who seek validation and credibility. It is an excellent source for knowing that what you believe or perceive about being an adopted person is not silly, false or unrealistic.

Verrier has realistic advice for prospective adoptive parents as well, regarding their motives for adopting, coping with their own losses and limitations and long-term goals and expectations when considering the adoptive child’s developmental and emotional needs.

This is an excellent resource book for adoptees, adoptive parents and anyone studying human development issues. Verrier’s writing is organized and to the point while maintaining one of the fairest and most objective tones. There are professionals who disagree with Verrier’s opinions, (Jean Mercer, PhD. who has expertise in attachment theory), however, in reviewing several internet links, I found no evidence that Professor Mercer has personal experience with adoption and Verrier indeed does. Verrier relied on input from her adoptee daughter and openly shares this with consent from her daughter in The Primal Wound.

Here is a link to Nancy Verrier’s website if you would like more information about this author: http://nancyverrier.com/about-the-author-nancy-verrier/

#30yearreuniversary wrap-up:

I just got home from all my worldly travels this month. It will be a while before I get to go anywhere outside of driving trips again just because of real life. July has been a blast. What a privilege to see all the sights and be with the people I have been with this month.

The trip to So. Cal. w my two sisters (on my birth mother’s side) was beautiful and jam-packed with activity. I’m still processing, but it’s all good. This was our #30yearreuniversary of me finding them and connecting w them in July of 1988. Each time we get together we learn a little more about one another and realize that together we do possess a “Power of Three”. (“Charmed” reference)

On this trip, we saw older houses where my sisters once lived. How the homes look now are not the way they used to look in that the neighborhoods have turned over, some owners have done re-dos and makeovers. In one case, my sister’s father’s former workplace was torn down. As a threesome, we went to Forest Lawn and visited the grave of our birth mother. It was good and right and the 1st time all four of us if you include our birth mother, were in the same place at the same time. It did not feel sad or awkward, but we didn’t need to stay very long, but I am glad we took the time to be there. It was like a healing and closure thing to be there together. We laid three red roses, (her favorite flower), on the grave and spoke to her in our heads.

The next morning my older sister found a mysterious gif picture in her phone photos and does not know how it got there. It was a pic of a sparkling red rose. (insert Twilight Zone theme music)

We went to a dinner theater pirate comedy show. I’d never seen anything like it. The meal was OK-ish but the show was a lot of fun with hot pirate guys, trapeze artists, dancers, light and sound effects. The next day we got up, ate the blah but included-in-the-rates motel breakfast and made our way to Seal Beach not before stopping in a WalMart and Target for drink bottles and other assorted supplies for our day at the shore. WalMart tried to charge my sister $60 for two Pure Leaf tea drink bottles! Our Power of Three stopped this from happening prior to her card being charged.

What I learned: In the morning, I am the fast one. I get up, in and out of the bathroom and dressed before everyone else. I am ready to get going. My sisters poke and dwaddle more. TMA is a good driver in very annoying traffic and keeps calm. She is a brave but not aggressive behind the wheel. She’s good at making you feel safe; We are all pretty good when it comes to meandering in gift shops (or not); KDN doesn’t like Brussels sprouts at all, but she’s skilled at speaking up and asking questions and getting service (plus sometimes free stuff!). She’s also very gregarious and will chat it up with other people in lines, restaurant workers, and anyone else nearby; Riding a big-ass roller coaster and primally screaming while descending 108 feet/ 33 M @ 55 MPH is bonding; We do beach time well and love the sun and all the people-watching; We could eat tacos for every meal if given the opportunity, and we take pictures of EVERYTHING! We all need to pee a lot but we travel well together.

In Disney Land, we shared memories, rode rides, ate an amazing dinner at the River Belle Terrace and foraged through when they told us that both Space Mountain and the Matterhorn were closed on the one day we had to be there. At least the Haunted Mansion was open and did not disappoint. The laser light show and Magic Mountain were beautiful too.

In California Adventures we rode: Soarin’ Around the World, (imagine an iMax type movie playing, and you sit in swing-like seats so you feel like you’re hand-gliding all over), Guardians of the Galaxy (formerly the Tower of Terror made over), Grizzly River Run, (a White Water Canyon/ round raft type attraction where you do get wet on this ride), and the Incredicoaster, (formerly known as California Screamin’). The light parade was cool and the churros were the best I’ve ever had.

I couldn’t have asked for a better trip and precious time with my sisters while we are still young enough to run around and do activities together. We could have let ourselves get bogged down about the facts that the rental car place was run by dim-wits, the lauded Fast Pass system is a crock to get more money from amusement park attendees, (especially when your preferred rides are shut down) or that the cost of a hoodie or t-shirt with a Disney, TM logo is ridiculous, but we focused on the positive like our chance to be together and play games while standing in long ride lines (like the iPhone game Heads Up!), joke around and feel whole. Feeling whole is a big one, and we felt that the minute we stepped off our respective planes at LAX and ran to one another at baggage claim.

Now I am back home, 2,000-plus-miles away, and I will miss my sisters, but the feeling whole part remains. We will do a reuniversary again, someplace somewhere. It might only be at one of our homes while eating pizza and watching Netflix in someone’s family room for 5 days, but we will do it again, and it won’t take 30 years.

 

#adoptee #adoption #30yearreuniversary #birthfamily #sisters